Joining the premium-TV ranks requires a certain commitment to doing what others aren’t. Hence, Netflix gets virtually no points for “BoJack Horseman,” a raunchy animated series that not-so-boldly goes where seemingly everyone — Fox, Comedy Central, Adult Swim — has gone before. Will Arnett and Aaron Paul lend their voices to the enterprise (as well as helping pad the roster of exec producers), but it’s such a stale premise that even when the series musters the occasional smirk, it feels deserving of a trip to the glue factory. Does “BoJack’s” Hollywood satire merit saddling up to watch? To quote the protagonist, “Neigh.”
Part of the series’ problem right out the starting gate is that Arnett’s boorish, self-absorbed former sitcom star feels like little more than an equine version of a character he’s played a dozen times, most effectively in “Arrested Development.” BoJack headlined a “Full House”-like show in the ’90s called “Horsin’ Around,” but the phone has stopped ringing, and his agent and occasional paramour (a cat voiced by Amy Sedaris, who features “Cats” on her hold music) can’t find him any work.
“You couldn’t even get me in the room for ‘War Horse,’ ” BoJack grouses.
In essence, think of BoJack as “Entourage’s” Johnny Drama, only with a horse’s head, with Paul voicing the shiftless squatter living in his home, where BoJack sits around watching his old reruns and fretting about a book advance he’s already spent for an autobiography he can’t get himself to write.
An ongoing plot thread involves an attempt to get the book project moving, with the agent enlisting a ghost writer (“Community’s” Alison Brie) to work with him. Yet while BoJack kind of likes her, she’s already dating another sitcom has-been, a relentlessly cheerful dog named Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), who has found a second act by starring in a celebreality show.
Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and produced by Michael Eisner’s company, the series does amass a rather impressive assortment of celebrity voice cameos, among them MSNBC alum Keith Olbermann as a whale of an MSNBSea anchor (no, really).
Frankly, though, anthropomorphic animals (really just heads on human bodies) tend to yield diminishing returns comedy-wise, even if the head of Penguin Books is — what else? — a penguin. And while the episodes improve slightly as the show progresses, it’s hard to get past the first few, including a premiere that violates the unwritten vomiting-scene rule of depicting more than one per episode.
Perhaps foremost, shows that exhibit the “courage” to skewer Hollywood — poking fun at luminaries like Eric McCormack and David Boreanaz along the way — at this point feel more tired than edgy.
“Really? Not even a pity laugh?” BoJack asks when a joke falls flat.
It’s just one more reminder why this horse’s head is an offer you can refuse.